Two recent CalArts School of Film/Video grads, Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, are making a splash on the festival circuit with their feature debut, Only the Young.
The documentary follows two Canyon Country (Santa Clarita, Calif.,) skateboarding teens, Garrison Saenz and Kevin Conway, as they navigate friendship, bromance and first encounters with the opposite sex. Underlying this coming-of-age dynamic is the duo's Christian beliefs, in which the protagonists are "unsure quite how to rebel, [yet] still know they need to."
The impact of a downsizing economy in suburbia and the plight of hard-hit families of the Santa Clarita Valley are also thematic undercurrents of the film.
Only the Young screened at the True/False Film Festival 2012 in Columbia, Missouri, last month and heads to Northern California next, with screenings on May 2-3 in the San Francisco International Film Festival.
In a review released earlier this week, Variety not only praised the film and its filmmakers, but also several other CalArtians contributing to an innovative West Coast film scene:
Although the new generation of skateboard docs has struggled in the marketplace, "Only the Young" could conceivably buck the trend, due to the filmmakers' warm feelings toward their likable and interesting teen characters, who feel less like documentary subjects than like figures J.D. Salinger might have crafted in a genial mood. The pleasurable visuals and unconventional soundtrack help, too.
The pic continues a little-noted trend of live-action filmmakers emerging from Los Angeles County-based CalArts, best known for its prowess in animation and experimental film, and staying close to home to make striking features. Tippet and Mims join fellow alums Lee Anne Schmitt ("California Company Town," "The Last Buffalo Hunt"), David Fenster ("Trona") and Mike Ott ("Littlerock") in making a memorable contribution to what might be termed the SoCal indie film.
Only the Young traverses familiar ground for Tippet and Mims, who first worked together at CalArts on the short film Thompson, which followed two Newhall high school seniors approaching adulthood without much of a game plan or future ahead of them. Thompson went on to screen at Sundance, the Los Angeles Film Festival and earned a jury award for short film at SXSW 2009.
CalArtians Yoko Okumura (Film/Video BFA 10) and Sean Meehan (Film/Video BFA 11) also served as associate producers for Only the Young.